De-coding Stereotypical Thinking – Ole! Media Group working to narrow the gender gap in Media IT
It’s 2018 and global research reports that gender bias still lurks within the work place – no shock there. However, because women are used to “doing it for themselves”, there are those intrepid females among us who stand up and say enough is enough and change the status quo. That was the case at Ole! Media Group when two young women joined the ranks and are now proving that transformation is underway in the tech space, within the media sector specifically, and provoked the launch of a campaign, the company hopes will encourage more organisations to follow suit.
More than 10 years ago, when Luane Swart began her journey as part of the working class, all of her female classmates opted for jobs in teaching, beauty and early childhood development. It was a time when venturing into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) were largely unfamiliar paths for South African women to pursue, and it was this very reason that drew Luane into the tech space.
She recalls boasting to her parents as a little girl – saying that she’d be a boss with a briefcase one day. Never imagining that her briefcase would eventually turn into a backpack for her coding laptop. “I took an aptitude test to determine my career path and the results suggested that I become an Accountant. At that time, a college visiting my school, gave a tech presentation and I was wowed by the idea of becoming a Developer.” That presentation would be the push for Luane to pursue a career in tech and software development, where she began her studies as one of only six women in a class of 100 students.
Where transformation begins – breaking down stereotypical thinking
In an age where information is freely available, Luane says that the reason why few women occupy roles in the tech space is because schools do not provide enough education that encourages women to apply. She remembers a day where herself and classmates were tasked to choose their coding languages and when her lecturers stressed how complex Java would be to learn, she was adamant that Java would be the language she chose. She made a point of proving that she was capable of learning a complex coding language, even if that meant being the only female in her class learning it.
Had it not been for her own curiosity to learn more about tech after being vaguely introduced to the industry, Luane would probably have become an accountant.
Awareness of careers in the tech space is but one of the factors affecting women in Africa, according to a recent article published by HoneyKome. The article echoes Luane’s sentiment regarding education, adding that many South Africans still don’t have access to schooling or resources such as data, which could reinforce self-education.
Companies like Ole! Media are working to close the gender gap by offering growth opportunities to young, ambitious women pursuing careers in media, marketing, sales and technology.
When Luane joined, Mobimedia – the mobile division of the Ole! Media Group – she joined as a Senior Developer and, the only female within the team. Luane quickly rose to Team Lead, as her passion for gaming and computers and the fact she was a woman in a predominantly man’s world, drove her to excel. When asked what she loves most about being a developer, she said that no two days are the same. “Every day is different. There’s always a new client, a new challenge, a new requirement – it’s not boring. It’s fun and exciting and I feel I am breaking new ground everyday – there’s something very empowering in knowing that anyone can achieve what they set out to do, despite the barriers in their way, or even because of them.”
More female mentors
It is important for young women to have role models who represent future possibilities. Women such as the #Inspiring50 who were recently named – 50 incredible women who are forging new paths in the STEM sector in South Africa. But, also, young women like Luane, that colleagues can look up to. Up and coming Graphic Designer and Developer, Nelmari Addison is a case in point. She has been working closely with Luane over the past year to advance the skills and experience as a Developer. Nelmari joined Mobimedia as a promising intern graphic designer who was then appointed as designer and developer at the company. She found coding by chance while working as a waitress at a coffee shop, explaining that the quaint coffee shop had a horrible-looking website that she desperately wanted to assist with. “All I wanted to do was help them change the look of the website because I felt that it didn’t represent the store at all. That’s when I decided to study Graphic Design and learned about web development, which I thought I might as well learn too. And here I am, loving every day at work.”
For Nelmari, life in the workplace appears to be flowing as it should be – with a relatable mentor, an opportunity for growth in the tech space, and the possibility that she may one day inspire a young female dev herself. Such small wins are to be celebrated and while Ole! Media displays one positive case study, it’s a show of positive transformation that can also improve if more companies follow suit.
CEO of the Ole! Media Group, Deseré Orrill, who has herself broken the rules when it comes to doing things differently, recognises that the opportunities in the digital media space are endless – for women and their male counterparts. She says: “I have seen how Luane has grown and developed over the years she has been with us, yet when it comes to hiring more developers for the team, female applicants are few and far between. I refuse to believe it is because they are not interested in coding, Luane and Nelmari are proof this is not so.
“Our developers agreed to share their story as part of a ‘soft’ campaign that we are espousing, aimed at encouraging companies in the space to stop, and take stock of what is happening in the work place and to be open to encouraging new skills and welcoming new thinking where we can narrow the gender gap. “
We need to rethink attitudes and revise the stereotypes that prevent transformation within the this important field – and it starts right from grass roots, as Luane’s story shows. Share this article with a friend, a parent, a boss or a mentor and help create a movement that encourages more families, schools, colleges and companies to mentor and develop female developers.
Meet Luane and nelmari: https://mobimedia.co.za/signs-of-gender-transformation-in-the-tech-space/